Marijuana & Pets What You Should Know

Although marijuana just became legal in Illinois, Dundee Animal Hospital has been seeing an increase in cases of cannabis ingestion by pets, particularly dogs, over the last few years.  And it’s not just happening here in Illinois- according to the Pet Poison Helpline, over the past 6 years, there’s been a 400+% increase in marijuana-related cases throughout the country.

Pets are curious creatures and notorious for getting into stuff they shouldn’t, and marijuana is no exception.   Marijuana poisoning can occur due to a pet ingesting items like gummy edibles or “laced” foods such as brownies, an owner’s marijuana supply, or the remainder of a marijuana cigarette joint and, surprisingly, dogs can also be affected by secondhand marijuana smoke.  Dogs are more easily affected because they normally weigh less and have many more cannabinoid receptors than their human owners.

Normally, signs of toxicity can develop anywhere between 5 minutes to 12 hours after drug exposure, depending on the potency and amount of marijuana/edibles ingested and the size of the pet.  Symptoms include:

  • lethargy
  • dazed expression
  • dilated pupils
  • glassy eyes
  • difficulty walking
  • loss of balance
  • trouble breathing
  • vomiting

Other side effects might include:

  • tremors or seizures
  • urinary incontinence
  • abnormal heart rate
  • low blood pressure
  • whining or crying
  • agitation
  • body temperature regulation trouble
  • coma

So what should you do if you think your pet has ingested marijuana or any other harmful drugs, whether prescribed or even if they’re illegal?  Call a poison control hotline such as the Pet Poison Hotline at (855) 764-7661 or take your pet to the vet immediately and be honest with them and let them know what you suspect they’ve ingested. As veterinarians, our concern isn’t about whether the drug is legal or not- we just want all the information possible to rule out other causes and help diagnose and treat your pet more quickly.